Former top energy official and economic policymaker Liu Tienan has been sentenced to life in prison by a Hebei court for bribery and abuse of power. The sentence was passed by the Intermediate People's Court in Langfang, Hebei, yesterday morning. The decision came on the same day as a report that Zhang Xinhua, the head of a small Guangdong state-owned company, had became one of just a handful of cadres to be sentenced to death for corruption. Nanfang Daily reported that Zhang, the former general manager of Baiyun Agribusiness, a subsidiary of Guangzhou Flagship Development Group, amassed about 340 million yuan (HK$430 million) through graft and bribery, making him "the most corrupt official in Guangdong", the judge said. Meanwhile, Liu, former deputy chief of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), was earlier found guilty of taking more than 35 million yuan (HK$44.2 million) in bribes from five firms, including petrochemical producers and carmakers, from 2002 to 2012. Some of the bribes were collected via his son Liu Decheng, the court heard. Liu Tienan's case was heard in September, when he pleaded guilty. Despite the large amount of money involved in the case, prosecutors pleaded for leniency for Liu, citing his cooperative attitude while under investigation. They said the former official had volunteered a lot of information on bribes he had taken that investigators had not previously known about. Liu said he had been living in repentance and that he had not only hurt his family but also brought shame to the Communist Party. Liu was an official of vice-ministerial rank at the NDRC, the powerful planning agency charged with steering the world's second-largest economy. He was at the same time director of the National Energy Administration under the NDRC. But despite his important role in policymaking, Liu's judgment and sentencing has not attracted much attention online. Professor Zhang Ming , from Renmin University, said people were more interested in the fate of higher-ranking official Ling Jihua, who used to be a top aide to former president Hu Jintao. "There are just so many big tigers [high-ranking officials] that people have become numb to the news about Liu," Zhang said. Public interest might have also been muted by a presumption about the outcome. "There was an unspoken consensus that no death sentence would be given", unlike in the corruption trials of other officials. Liu was the first ministerial-level central government official to be suspended from his post and expelled from the party after President Xi Jinping took over the party reins in late 2012.